PHT Morning Skate: Jiri Hudler scored an incredibly embarrassing own goal

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–Wild captain Mikko Koivu wrote an excellent piece about his journey to North America. When he came over from Finland, Koivu said he was expecting to play for the Wild right away, but because of the 2005 lockout, he was assigned to AHL Houston, which he wasn’t exactly thrilled about it at first. Over time, he got to appreciate what the minors had to offer. “I was scared about going to Houston, to be honest. I didn’t really think Texas was a hockey market. I had no idea what to expect. Looking back, the coaching staff there really shaped my career. Todd McLellan was in charge at the time. His influence on me, not only as a player, but also as a person, has been invaluable.” (The Players’ Tribune)

–The New England Patriots have been one of the elite teams in the NFL for the better part of two decades. On Sunday, they won their fifth championship in the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era. Football and hockey may be two completely different sports, but writer Sean McIndoe believes there are lessons that NHL teams can pull from New England’s success. (The Hockey News)

–When you think of the Edmonton Oilers, the first thing that usually comes to mind is Connor McDavid. But as TSN’s Travis Yost points out, you should also associate them with the word “resilient” because of their ability to overcome deficits. Edmonton have a goal differential of +21 when they’re trailing in a game. That’s the best in the NHL. (TSN)

–The New York Islanders just keep on rolling under interim head coach Doug Weight. On Thursday, they took down the Philadelphia Flyers by a score of 3-1, and they closed the gap between themselves and a Wild Card spot to just two points. You can watch the highlights from last night’s game by clicking the video at the top of the page.

–Sportsnet’s Andrew Berkshire analyzed the play of every Canadian team’s first line. After his evaluation, he came to the conclusion that the trio of Connor McDavid, Patrick Maroon and Leon Draisaitl is the top one in the country. What makes them so good? Well for starters, McDavid, but it goes beyond that. Their shot quality is spot on, they always have the puck, they rarely turn it over and each member of the line is capable of scoring goals. (Sportsnet)

–On January 2, 1918, the Montreal Canadiens were supposed to take on the Montreal Wanderers at Westmount Arena. The game never ended up taking place because of a huge fire that occurred just a few hours before puck-drop. Both teams lost their uniforms and stick in the blaze. That fire quickly led to the demise of the Wanderers franchise. (Sports Illustrated).

–To say that things haven’t been going well for Dallas would be an understatement. Their coach, Lindy Ruff, is clearly on the hot seat, and that definitely didn’t change after Thursday’s loss to Ottawa. Not only did the Stars lose the game, but to make matters worse, Jiri Hudler scored an incredibly embarrassing goal into his own net. Yikes!

 

Ekblad out again, this time with a sore neck

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It’s not concussion-related, Panthers interim coach Tom Rowe told reporters today — but defenseman Aaron Ekblad woke up this morning with a sore neck and will miss tonight’s game against Arizona.

Ekblad had only just returned to the lineup after missing four games with a concussion. He logged 18:14 in Tuesday’s 4-3 loss to Carolina.

And now he’s out again.

Certainly, the timing of Ekblad’s latest injury, not to mention the fact it’s a sore neck, will lead many to doubt Rowe’s assertion that it’s not concussion-related.

But Rowe said before the Hurricanes game that the club was being cautious with its 21-year-old star defenseman.

“We didn’t want to rush him back because he’s such a young guy,” said Rowe, per the Miami Herald. “With a concussion, we didn’t want to rush him back.”

Stars’ Janmark won’t play this season, and there’s a ‘question mark’ about next year

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In a season filled with injuries, one of the biggest Dallas suffered this season was Mattias Janmark‘s knee issue.

The 24-year-old Swede has missed the entire season thus far, but recently resumed skating and practicing with the club. That said, Janmark confirmed he won’t play this year — meaning he’ll miss the entire 82-game campaign.

And what’s more, he might miss games next season as well.

“I think there’s a question mark (about next season), but we don’t know to what degree yet,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff, per the Dallas Morning-News. “He’s progressing nicely. He still has a ways to go, but I think the fact he is practicing now and has gone this far always gives a guy like that a better chance for next year.”

Janmark’s original injury occurred during the preseason, when he knee locked up in a game against Colorado.

“He had a small segment, approximately 21 millimeters by 11 millimeters, that became displaced and is locked in his knee,” GM Jim Nill said at the time. “It’s the bone and the cartilage, they both came off together.”

Janmark underwent surgery to correct the issue, but his recovery was plagued by a preexisting congenital condition called osteochondritis dissecans. Nill said the likelihood of a full recovery was 80 percent.

Losing his services was a big blow for Dallas. After surprising onlookers by making the team out of camp in ’15-16 — a “great story,” according to Nill — Janmark had a pretty successful rookie campaign, scoring 15 goals and 29 points in 73 games.

He also fared well in the playoffs, with five points in 12 contests.

Janmark’s contract situation complicates things. He’s a pending RFA, currently in the last of a two-year, $1.6 million deal with an $733,750 cap hit. The Stars would (presumably) like to keep him, but the uncertainty regarding his health might made negotiations difficult.

Fehr injures hand, spotted in cast following Leafs debut

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Eric Fehr finally played his first game as a Maple Leaf on Wednesday night, suiting up for the first time since being acquired from Pittsburgh at the trade deadline.

It didn’t go especially well.

Fehr, who logged 10:44 TOI in a 5-2 win over Columbus, suffered a hand injury while blocking a shot in the third period and was seen afterward wearing a cast, per TSN.

According to the Toronto Sun, the 31-year-old forward confirmed he spent the night in hospital.

While a break or fracture might rule him out for the remainder of the season, it’s worth noting Fehr won’t be done entirely in Toronto. He’s in the second of a three-year, $6 million deal with a $2M cap hit. Prior to joining the Leafs he appeared in 52 games for the Pens, scoring six goals and 11 points while averaging just under 11 minutes a night.

He was also a regular in last year’s Stanley Cup run, scoring three times in 23 games.

Though his role decreased, Fehr was still frequently used by head coach Mike Sullivan — albeit in a more limited capacity. He is a good PK contributor, and can play both center and wing. Those were some of the attributes the Leafs were hoping Fehr could bring down the stretch and, should they make it, into the postseason.

He’s back: With 10 games left, Isles recall Halak

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The Isles are in full playoff push mode, and on Thursday made a move to bolster their chances.

Jaroslav Halak, the veteran netminder that’s been in AHL Bridgeport since early January, has been recalled ahead of New York’s crucial three-games-in-four-days stretch, the club announced.

It’s the latest in what’s been a tumultuous move for the 31-year-old. Halak opened the year as part of an uncomfortable three-goalie rotation — along with Thomas Greiss and Jean-Francois Berube — and was soon on the trading block after agent Allan Walsh criticized the setup on Twitter.

With no takers — and after then-head coach Jack Capuano called him out for his poor play — Halak was placed on waivers, and sent to the minors.

Halak has been really good in Bridgeport. He’s posted a 17-7-1 record with a 2.15 GAA and .925 save percentage, and a pair of shutouts. And given how spotty Berube’s play has been as Greiss’ backup, there’s a shot Halak could be making a start for the Isles soon.

As mentioned above, the club is in the midst of a compacted part of the schedule. Greiss was excellent in last night’s win over the Rangers — stopping 34 of 36 shots in a 3-2 victory — but he was also busy.

The Isles head to Pittsburgh on Friday, then host the Bruins on Saturday, then host the Preds on Monday. The Boston game looms large because, after last night, New York found itself just two points back of the B’s for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Per Newsday, there’s a real chance Halak will face the Pens on Friday, which would open the door for Greiss to take on the Bruins the following day.